I see an Australia even better than it is now. An Australia that allows its people to love who they love and live a life they want for themselves. A government which backs marriage equality will finally give value to all people, and lift a weight off the shoulders of those who have had it too hard for too long.
I write from personal experience, as an Australian living abroad where marriage is legal, and from the shared experience of my friends.
Tomorrow marks a year since I met the group of women who I felt safe enough to come out to. These are the women who gave me my voice and allowed me to step into a confidence that I had never known. I was in England when I met them, a country that passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013.
For the first time, life made sense to me. Two of my British friends, both professionals and over 40, have been in a relationship for 10 years, they share a home together and have a law that supports them. As soon as I was introduced to their world, my own life was realised, I kept saying to myself, “this is me."
The same feeling swept over me when the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favour of same-sex marriage. I currently live in Los Angeles. While same-sex marriage has been enacted in some parts of the US since 2008, to have nation-wide support on this human right made me feel visible, protected, and cared for in the eyes of the law and in every one of the 50 U.S. states. I felt connected to my gay friends more than ever and it gave us all a sense of belonging.
And in April of this year, when I had enough courage to come out, words had new meaning to me. I felt immense joy for knowing who I am. And the word pride had true gravitas, as for so long I felt different, confused and at times, ashamed.
I had a pretty happy upbringing, but I can’t help but think that it was our society’s derision and rejection of openly gay people that drove my sexuality so deep within me that it made it challenging for me to come out.
I’m old enough to know that I am not the only one that had a hard time with this. The stats around anxiety, depression and suicide rank higher than our hetero-sexual counterparts. A study by Concordia University, California says that those that are lesbian, gay or bisexual and exposed to homophobia are 14 times more likely to take their own life.
The rejection continues with the exclusion of same sex couples from legal marriage.
Polls show that more than 70 percent of Australians want the ability for people to live and love whoever they want, regardless of gender.
This is our opportunity to move from the sidelines, from supporting from a distance the forward thinking of nations like Ireland, New Zealand, England and the US, to joining them as leader in an important and necessary change.
Australia is so close to marriage equality. So much closer to equal respect. And so much closer to acknowledging its citizens as equals.
I’m hopeful that soon we’ll be able to increase the pride in our own country, and celebrate a government that supports the view of the majority of Australians, and continues to build a reputation for celebrating diversity.